Work and Pensions Select Committee Chairman Frank Field MP has raised "serious doubts" about the way the pre-pack administration of newspaper publishing firm Johnston Press took place. Many pensions are at risk as a result of the way the firm was sold to bondholders.
Mr Field has published his correspondence with the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), which highlighted several concerns. These included the statement by PPF Chief Executive Oliver Morley that the group did have sufficient cash to make an £800,000 contribution to the pension fund in November, which it avoided by completing the pre-pack deal just days earlier. This could mean pension scheme members see reduced payments as a result. Mr Morley had said there was no "burning platform" urgency that forced the sale.
The veteran MP said, "It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a company that dumps its pensions liabilities just days before it has to put £800,000 into the pension fund might be up to no good." The Pensions Regulator is investigating the issue, but a spokesman for Johnston Press insisted the timing of the deal was "wholly unconnected" with the £800,000 payment.